A British doctor has told how she was brutally raped during a sailing vacation in St Lucia and then asked to keep quiet about it and offered a manicure and massage to “cheer her up” by the company that arranged the women-only break.
Dr Georgina Mortimer, who booked the holiday with Girls for Sail, a company accredited by the Royal Yacht Association (RYA), says she was attacked in the bedroom of her shared villa soon after arriving.
Now, in a potential landmark case, the mother of two is taking action against the holiday company and villa owner for negligence, paving the way for other tourists to sue private property renters.
The Daily Mail reports that the 45-year-old doctor was staying in one of the four bedrooms at Summer Breeze Villa, a RYA accredited sailing training centre, in the hills above Rodney Bay Marina.
Dr Mortimer, who has daughters aged 13 and 15, said: “I was not given a key for my bedroom door but two instructors were also staying there and I understood the front door would be locked each night.”
But on the second night of her £2,000 holiday in February, she said that she woke to find herself being strangled and raped by a total stranger.
“I woke to find a monster pinning me down in my bed attacking me, I thought I was going to be murdered,” she was quoted as saying.
“The hand on my throat pressed down so hard I thought I was going to pass out. I could hardly breathe let alone scream.
“I thought of my children and was determined not to die. I lay as quiet as possible because I felt any struggling on my part could anger him enough to kill me.
“It was around fifteen minutes of hell before someone knocked at the door and my attacker fled.”
The police were called and Mortimer was subsequently taken to hospital.
One of her best friends had planned to join her that day for the remainder of the holiday but was “horrified” when she saw her.
According to Dr Mortimer: “Girls for Sail even advised me not to tell other women arriving alone what had happened in case it upset them.
“I was in shock. Looking back I should have said something. There was no sign of a break in, it appears he walked straight into the villa but I was made to feel as though I’d done something wrong.
“I couldn’t stay in the villa but they said they’d pay for us to stay in a hotel for one night, but not two.
“I was traumatised, I couldn’t cope being there. Nobody had bothered to contact the British Consulate for me so I did that myself and they organised an emergency flight home for me.”
Back home in Hertfordshire, Mortimer was horrified to learn that there had been similar sexual assaults and rapes in St Lucia, including an attempted rape in a house a few miles away from her villa, but said there were no warnings issued to take additional care.
“I started to get angry. I had gone on a women-only holiday; you have an expectation of safety,” she said.
“Because of the other incidents they should surely have upped security, therefore the villa should have had CCTV and a security guard on duty. They should have at least had self-locking doors and told us to be vigilant.”
Letters of complaint were sent to the company and Ms Mortimer expected a refund – instead three weeks later she received a marketing newsletter.
“I complained again,” she said. “This time I got an email saying they were offering me a massage and manicure at my local beauty salon.
“They’d described it as a little ‘treat’ for me and hoped I found it ‘enjoyable’. As if that would cheer me up. I had been raped under their guard. I was disgusted, insulted.”
“I am devastated by what happened and I am going to do what I can to stop any other woman going through this.
“I am shocked a company, which claims to empower women by helping them learn to sail without men has treated a rape victim so badly. My life has been turned upside down. I have horrendous flashbacks and feel traumatised.”
Now Mortimer has hired lawyers to sue both organisations for negligence, claiming Girls for Sail also failed to report the attack to the RYA.
Her solicitor Vidisha Joshi, Partner and Head of Personal Injury, Hodge, Jones and Allen Solicitors in London, said: “This is a professional woman who was attacked in her own bed whilst away on holiday. Tour operators, hotel owners and others in the holiday business have a duty of care to protect their customers.”
Annie O Sullivan, owner of Summer Breeze villa and Girls for Sail, was quoted as saying: “We have been a Trip Advisor recommended 4.5 star villa since 2012 and strenuously deny the claims.”
On their website Girls for Sail say they are the “only sailing school for ladies” and they “take care of each other and maintain a safe environment.” (Caribbean360.com)